Resize the force: the army offers armor for small troops
WASHINGTON – Army Captain Kim Pierre-Zamora remembers the protective vest she was given when she underwent basic training a few years ago. It was a medium height that hung too far and made it difficult for her to bend down to pick something up.
“Every time I tried to move or shoulder my gun or shoot at a shooting range very quickly, I had to physically pick up the vest and move it in order to prop my gun,” Pierre-Zamora said.
It’s a common complaint from female soldiers and short men who struggled with the bulky armor they wore during two decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in recent weeks, the military has for the first time begun to distribute armor in three additional sizes: extra small short, small short and small long. The armor can be adjusted in a number of ways to better fit and allow soldiers to move faster and more freely.
The “Modular Evolving Vest” has been distributed to more than 4,500 soldiers so far in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, over the past few weeks. Women soldiers will be able to obtain new versions of the combat shirt more adapted to the morphology of a woman. These shirts are only distributed when the soldiers deploy.
Army researchers have been working on the changes for years, trying to come up with lighter, better-fitting combat gear.
Initially, the effort to add more sizes was in response to complaints from female soldiers, who are increasingly moving into combat jobs previously reserved for men. As more and more women deployed to a war zone, they often found that they were shorter and shorter than most men and needed armor that allowed for shoulders, bust, and body armor. narrower hips.
Early on, however, the military made the decision to make the vests unisex. The decision, Lt. Col. Stephen Miller said, was based on the belief that smaller male soldiers who might need a short or small waistcoat would refuse to take anything. it was “a stamped woman”. He is the product manager for soldier protective equipment at PEO Soldier, an army organization that coordinates the commissioning of armor, weapons and other equipment.
This movement turned out to be a success.
Almost 25% or 1,200 of 82nd Airborne soldiers have so far obtained armor in the three new sizes, said Pierre-Zamora, who works as an assistant product manager at PEO Soldier. Of these 1,200, approximately 100 were women.
There are five other regular sizes that were available before: extra small, small, medium, large and extra large.
Pierre-Zamora said the new short and long versions are more suitable for many soldiers. As an example, she said that she and another female soldier appeared to be about the same height. But, she said she wears very small shorts, while the other soldier wears very small shorts.
“Outwardly we both look about the same height, but his torso is a bit shorter than mine,” she said.
The vest, she said, also allows soldiers to move ballistic armor plates that can be inserted for additional protection. The soft pockets that hold the plates can be moved upwards, so that they do not rest on the hip bones of female soldiers, preventing quick and agile movement. The straps are also adjustable.
The small, long version of the vest is more suitable for some slimmer men.
“There are a lot of little men who probably wore a waistcoat that was too big for them,” Miller said.
Miller said he was one of them.
“I have always been given a big or a medium in the past,” he said. But we gave it a size small in the new version “because someone who knew what he was doing adapted me and said,” No, the way the MSV (modular evolution vest) is fits, that’s where it goes. “”
Another soldier he knows, he said, is over 6 feet tall, but is also very thin. He’s usually gotten a medium or a large depending on his height and length needed, but he’s now using the small long – one of the new sizes that have just been released.
The new combat shirt, however, has a new version specifically for female soldiers, as the issue was the shape, not the sizes. Miller said he has shorter sleeves, a flare at the bottom and extra protection on the sides of the bust.
The new one, he said, eliminated the problem that female soldiers had with the shirt rising over their hips. But women who have a straighter figure can still get the unisex version.
Acknowledging that complaints about army bulletproof vests have been circulating for years, Miller said it has taken time to find suppliers who can change the size and shape of the ballistic plates, while making them larger. light and effective in protecting soldiers from explosions.
“Stopping bullets is a complex issue,” Miller said. “It really took a lot of deliberate effort to adapt the system to something that weighs less, fits a better form factor, as well as soldiers that weren’t specifically considered in previous systems. “
The major difficulty, he said, was to reduce the weight of the plates. The new ones weigh about a pound less. So far, he said, only two vendors have achieved the lower weight goal without sacrificing protection.
Ultimately, more than 6,000 soldiers from the three brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division are expected to receive the new armor. Miller said each soldier is individually equipped by trained personnel. Soldiers take a 30-minute course to learn how armor can be adjusted.